Although for now the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been concentrated in the Donbas region, international analysts believe that Vladimir Putin’s plans are to move his troops to Kiev, the country’s capital.
The problem, they warn, is that this eventual route that the Russian military force would make would pass through the isolated area around the Chernobyl power plant, where in 1986 the meltdown of a reactor caused the worst nuclear disaster in history.
Although Russian troops have not yet approached the capital, its army has taken control of the nuclear power plant anyway. At least this was reported by Anton Gueraschenko, adviser to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs. At the moment it is unknown what is the Russian interest in this area.
An article published in New York Timesin January, affirms that the Ukrainian military was deployed in this place with the mission of defending Chernobyl, where some sectors still remain with a significant level of radiation.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s contaminated or if no one lives here. It is our territory, our country, and we must defend it,” said Lieutenant Colonel Yuri Shakhraichuk, of the Ukrainian border guard service.
However, The New York Times assures that the troops that have been sent to that region would not be enough to stop a Russian invasion, so their job for now consists only of detecting “warning signs.”
Radioactive particles left on the ground or trapped under the containment structure of the destroyed reactor pose a low level of risk to soldiers, as long as they do not remain in highly contaminated areas. In fact, the authorities have determined that, in some places, the land must be abandoned for hundreds of years.
The Chernobyl zone covers about 2,600 square kilometers. It is not considered the most likely invasion route from the north, since it is swampy and has many forests, however, the Ukrainian authorities do not rule out that it is not used by the Russians.
Also, the probability that a conflict in that place will further increase the radiation still seems minimal. However, local authorities believe that a stainless steel arch built in 2016 over the destroyed reactor could show up as a vulnerable point.
This is because the steel arch cost close to $1.7 billion dollars and was paid for mostly by United States and about 30 other countries. The purpose of this construction was to prevent the spread of highly radioactive dust.
Reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded and caught fire during a test on April 26, 1986, releasing about 400 times more radiation than the bombing of Hiroshima. Thirty people died instantly from the accident, but fatalities are estimated to number in the thousands due to cancer and exposure to high levels of radiation.